Questions, Curiosity, and Writing Ideas

writing ideas

Foster curiosity to generate more writing ideas.

Even though writing ideas abound all around us, we writers sometimes get stumped.

We search for topics, plot ideas, models for our characters, and interesting language. Unfortunately, our searches don’t always yield desirable results.

But by fostering curiosity, we can ensure a constant stream of inspiration.

Some of the best writing ideas come from simply asking questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

By using these interrogative pronouns to trigger your curiosity, you can develop questions–questions that need answers. And your answers will lead you to new writing ideas.

Curiosity Saved the Writer

Most writers are curious by nature. We look at the world around us and wonder at it. Who are these people? What are we all doing here? Where are we heading? Why do we do the things we do? How will we achieve our goals?


Remember how curious you were as a child? Everything you encountered spawned a series of questions because you were trying to learn and understand the world around you.

Bring that childlike curiosity back, and you’ll never need to look far for new, interesting writing ideas.

Questions and Writing Ideas

By fostering curiosity, we can create a fountain of ideas. It doesn’t matter what form your writing takes or what genre you’re writing in. By coming up with intriguing questions, you’ll soon find yourself overwhelmed with inspiration.

Below are some questions you can use to generate fresh writing ideas. Mix them up, change them around, and come up with your own list of questions, too:

Who

  • Who is this story about?
  • Who does my main character trust? Who is the enemy?
  • Who in my life could inspire a poem?
  • Who am I?
  • Who does this character/person care about?

What

  • What are the characters’ goals?
  • What images do I want to create with a poem?
  • What related topics could be included in this project?
  • What motivates people to take drastic actions?
  • What if…?

Where

  • Where can I feel this poem physically? Head? Heart? Hands?
  • Where did it all begin?
  • Where will the characters end up?
  • Where does this story take place?
  • Where do these people want to be?

When

  • When does this poem take place?
  • When does a child become an adult?
  • When did things change for this character?
  • When did this story take place?
  • When should this story end?

Why

  • Why does this story matter?
  • Why is the protagonist evil?
  • Why did he or she do it?
  • Why would a person take a great risk?
  • Why are there stars in the sky?

How

  • How did the character land in this situation?
  • How will this story make people feel?
  • How do the characters know each other? How do they feel about each other?
  • How do you describe something that doesn’t really exist?
  • How far will the main character go to achieve his or her goal?

Keep Asking Questions

If you can keep your curiosity on fire and continue coming up with new questions all the time, you’ll find that you can write your way into answers and constantly discover new writing ideas along the way.

Try using any of the questions above as writing prompts. Simply copy and paste a question at the top of a new document (or write it in your journal) and then go–just start writing and let the answer come to you, through you, onto the page.

As you work through your writing projects, you can also use questions to help you overcome hurdles that are preventing you from crossing the finish line. Not sure how to move a plot forward? Start asking questions. Don’t know how to make a character more believable? Ask questions. Want to write a piece that is informative and entertaining? Ask away.

Throughout time, many great thinkers have used questions to prompt creative and critical thinking. Sometimes, one question will simply lead to the next, and that’s fine. As long as you keep your curiosity well oiled and let those questions flow, you’ll never be at a loss for writing ideas.

Do you have any favorite techniques for developing new writing ideas? Are there any questions you ask to get through a project or to come up with new project ideas? Share your thoughts and ideas by leaving a comment.

About Melissa Donovan
Melissa Donovan is a website designer and copywriter. She writes fiction and poetry and is the founder and editor of Writing Forward, a blog packed with creative writing tips and ideas.

Comments

28 Responses to “Questions, Curiosity, and Writing Ideas”

  1. Well put Melissa. Curiosity is definitely food for writers. Unfortunately it’s not so good for our cats ;)

    The question I like to ask most often is “What if…”

    Marc – WelshScribes last blog post..Why Keeping Busy Can Stall Your Freelance Career

  2. Rebecca Reid says:

    Thanks, I really need this. I’m not very experienced on writing fiction stories.

  3. Writer Dad says:

    This is the advice Dave would give as well (of course having come from a journalist’s background) and exactly the type of thing I need to improve in. My natural curiosity of course will drive my fingers on the key, but I’m far too focused on instinct to STOP and ask myself some necessary questions. This is exactly what leads me to write long rambling asides like the one I talked about cutting the other day in the first place.

    Writer Dads last blog post..The story garden

    • That’s what revisions are for! I like to go through each piece a few times. I write the first draft, then I read it. That’s about when I start asking questions, such as “Am I missing anything?” I usually revise for content first, then for language, and finally for grammar. It’s a process.

  4. Lori says:

    Great tips for getting the story back on track, Melissa! Love it. :)

  5. Kelvin Kao says:

    I was reading a writer’s blog. He was poor when he was little, had no money for books, and did a lot of his readings in bookstores and libraries. However, some stories span several different books and he didn’t always get the one he wanted. (Say a story span 5 books, and he finished 1 and 2, but someone else has book 3 so he had to read book 4 instead.) He would read that book and wonder what happened in between books. He would make up his own stories to explain those things. To this day, he still often starts reading a book or watching a movie in the middle, and jump to different parts. The habit is a little odd by most people’s standards, but look, he’s constantly wondering things and answering these questions and I am sure it helped greatly in coming up with new stories of his own!

    Kelvin Kaos last blog post..Voiceover Gig

    • Kelvin, that’s quite interesting. It just goes to show that each writer needs to develop his or her own techniques and methods. I always say there are only two things every writer must do: read and write. Everything else depends on what works for each individual.

  6. Salwa says:

    Curiosity has definitely saved me many times! Great article Melissa.

  7. J.D. Meier says:

    Questions makes the world go round.

    Really they do! I lead a question-driven life. I find that if I’m not getting good answers, I’m not asking good questions … or I’m not asking the right sources.

    I like the idea that thinking is just asking and answering questions so if you want better answers, ask better questions. It’s a cycle.

    J.D. Meiers last blog post..Choose Your Jobs Based on Strengths

  8. Thanks for this post. This will probably sound a little new-agey, but one thing I’d add is that I’ve found that, when I’m feeling creatively empty, getting curious about that emptiness is a great way to start the ideas flowing again. Just ask yourself what that mental blankness has to offer you, and you may find it dissolving.

  9. t.sterling says:

    It sounds a little crazy, but I’m afraid of the question “What if…?” because of all the endless possibilities it creates. The difficult part would be to choose the best one for the scenerio. I was asked that once in a writing class and I froze more or less for what felt like hours (probably just a few minutes) but I eventually picked something and went with it. I think the what if question comes in most handy if you are a writer for a popular TV show…

    t.sterlings last blog post..“x-men origins: wolverine” review

    • Me too! Every time I start down the what-if” road, I think I’m going to get lost in a jumble of ideas. I think that with a little effort, the process could be refined. And yes, it is perfect for TV-show writing ;) Of course, there are other essentials, like plot consistency, and character development, which are crucial to such a show. Or maybe not so crucial?

      • t.sterling says:

        For certain serial dramas (dare I say, “Heroes”?), I think the “what if” card can only be used at certain times or and sparingly. Unless the “what if” has limits like “what if it works?” “What if he says no.” Those choices could be very crucial to a show’s plot and possibly even a character’s development throughout that season, or part of it.

        Other shows, I’m thinking sitcoms like “Seinfeld”, can ask “what if” all they want just to see how these characters (which are already developed) would respond, possibly learning new traits about them. But it’s a great way to plan for an episode’s plot.

  10. mahima says:

    fiction for me is often something that ‘boils over’ almost from my daily writing…or non-fiction writing if you like. i have some favourite writing prompts that im compiling on my blog into 100 writing prompts. the first list is on it now. how do you get yourself started when you sit at the desk and begin?

    • I love writing prompts – both making up prompts and actually working through them. 100 writing prompts is a lot! How do you get yourself started? You have to want it. Badly. Funny thing is that we tend to do what we want most to do. That’s the difference between dreams and goals…

  11. Glenn J Meade says:

    Good evening Melissa, my name is Glenn. i liked your little story / blog maybe they call it these day’s. I am beginning to get into writing a book. I have taken a 6 week class and looking to take another in creative writing. I have to learn more about Fiction, Non Fiction, etc. Thank you, Glenn

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